The following @Webblog is a collection of journal entries from Melanie Bauman, Director of Counseling at The Webb Schools. Ms. Bauman, Dr. Tracy Miller, and Mr. Jon Fidani chaperoned fifteen students to Comanesti, Romania during Spring Break in order to help Habitat for Humanity construct apartments for those in need. A 2010 recipient of a Perry Award, Ms. Bauman traveled to Macedonia and worked with Habitat for Humanity on a service project.
Sunday April 1, 2012
After a very long and largely uneventful flight, we have arrived at Hello Hotel in Bucharest. Tonight we will venture into the city briefly for dinner, but most of us are pretty wiped from travel so I think it will be an early night. Tomorrow, we head to Comanesti.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Buna Dimineata (Good Morning)!
The Habitat group is well underway on our planned project for this trip. After a six hour bus trip to the Moldova region of Romania, we visited the worksite and were welcomed to the town by the President and the Director of the Board of Directors for Habitat Comanesti. Our worksite is a series of apartment complexes that will house four different families. Each apartment consists of two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a small common area. We started our work yesterday, successfully installing drywall in five different rooms. We are expecting to finish installing the drywall, and complete the plastering before we leave.
Last night we had an opportunity to visit one of the families that will be living in the apartments we are constructing. The family currently lives in a rented space with no kitchen, bathroom, or running water. The two children (girls ages 6 and 11) impressed us with better English than our rudimentary Romanian, though Gabe ’14 represented us well, counting quickly and accurately to ten! Meredith ‘14 is working on "I'm sorry" and the rest of us have mastered "thank you" and a few other short phrases. The language is difficult, but our translators and the men on the worksite are quite patient. It is amazing how much you can communicate about cutting a diagonal line in gestures!
Friday, April 6, 2012
Over the past few days at the worksite in Comanesti, we have carried supplies by the pallet up four flights of stairs (Zoey ‘14 and Chaewon ‘14are stronger than they thought), constructed almost all of the walls for all four apartments, learned the ins and outs (and pricks and pains) of fiberglass, and have built strong working relationships with each of the men who make up the paid construction team. Vasile is clearly the favorite of our group, as he has a sense of humor that is most appreciated when you've cut yet another piece of drywall not quite right. The students have renamed him Papa Urs (Papa Bear) and today he told me that the hardest part of having such a wonderful group is getting to know them and then having to say goodbye. As tomorrow is already our last building day, it has been bittersweet feeling to be so at home here.
Last night we were treated to a full cultural evening. Local horses gave us rides - Christy rode a horse for the first time and looked like a pro! Each day a shepherd and his flock pass our hotel and after horseback riding, we got up the courage to approach the flock and the shepherd. Much to our delight, we were allowed to pet, photograph and even hold sheep. Standing amongst 300 sheep puts every petting zoo experience to shame! Dinner was a traditional Romanian meal, consisting of a variety of local, farm fresh meats, cheeses and vegetables. This meal was particularly special in that it included a variety of preparations, and foods that are generally served for special occasions.
Next, local high school girls sang and danced for us. They performed traditional songs and then taught the Webb students to dance. Lauren ’14 helped us end the evening by bringing out her iPod and along with Anni-Ming ’14 taught the girls (as best they could) to do an American dance - the Dougie. Taco and Charlotte looked like they would have danced all night, and Hailey was beaming from ear to ear! All in all, it was a wonderful night. Of course, ever the networker, Jenny ‘13 has Facebook contacts for them all, but we will see them again tomorrow, as they will be joining us on the worksite. According to our Habitat host, Cristina, having Americans here to work is a big draw for her in her efforts to get local volunteers to the site for a day.
Today was another busy day, but because we had carried all of the supplies up the stairs yesterday in anticipation of rain, we didn't have to do too much heavy lifting, or nearly as much stair climbing! That was a good thing, as arm wrestling has become the group’s daily challenge. Davis ‘13 was beaten by one of the Romanian volunteers, Gabby, yesterday, but Gabe ‘14 represented us well, wining tonight against Alex, the son of a local school teacher who gave us a tour of the local high school yesterday morning.
As you can tell, we have had full, exciting days. Tomorrow is our final day on the worksite, and we will be dedicating one apartment to the family. Then, off to Brasov, and our adventures in Transylvania.
Nuapte Buna (good night),
Melanie, Tracy, Jon and the Webb Group
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The Habitat group returned home safe and sound on Tuesday night, following a few short delays in both Amsterdam and San Francisco. Our last two days in Romania were spent visiting the Transylvania region (specifically Bran Castle and Brasov) and Bucharest. Bran Castle is most famously referred to as "Dracula's Castle" - though our tour guide was bent on ensuring our group knew that Dracula never really lived there! The castle was built as a protection for the Bran passage, which was used in the 14th century to transport goods from the Wallachia to the Transylvania region. It is nestled between the Bucegi and Piatra Cariului Mountains. Over time it served as the summer homes and primary residences for a number of Romanian monarchs, including Queen Marie. Much of the castle was filled with furniture and art work belonging to Marie and Ferdinan.
Next we were off to Brasov, a medieval city with German and Hungarian influences. Tours of the city walls and a city wide view from the Black Tower revealed the rebirth of a town that was destroyed in a fire in 1689 - a result of the Turkish Invasion. The Black Church, Black Tower (named this because of the blackening of the walls from the fire) are among the few remaining buildings from this time, and we had a beautiful view of a city that has risen from ashes. Our drive from Brasov to Bucharest the next morning was picturesque, as overnight snow blanketed the mountains we drove through.
In Bucharest, we visited the Parliament building and students had an opportunity to learn about the impact of communism on the history of the country. Revolution Square, the Grand Palace, Caru' cu Bere (a historical restaurant), the Athenaeum, Stavropoleos Church (one of the only churches not destroyed during communist rule), the Old Court and the Romania Savings Bank were among the many buildings we visited on our tour. It was a whirlwind tour that we finished with one last meal in the Old City.
Melanie Bauman is the Director of Counseling at The Webb Schools.